The Bold Type has made a name for itself by pushing boundaries and daring to be different. No character has defied TV tropes as much as Scarlet boss Jacqueline Carlyle, portrayed by Melora Hardin (The Office). Where any other magazine editor might be harsh or condescending, Jacqueline is thoughtful and approachable in her criticism. The usual cruelness has been replaced with the utmost kindness, in one of television’s most subtly subversive take on a modern feminist boss.
Throughout the series Jacqueline has been a mentor and role model for Jane (Katie Stevens), and a guiding force for some of the series’ biggest lessons. This season we’ve seen Jacqueline tackle her own professional dilemmas with the introduction of Cleo (Siobhan Murphy), who has pushed the Scarlet Editor-in-Chief to stand up for the magazine’s relevance and its integrity.
Hardin spoke with The TV Junkies about her second season as The Bold Type‘s resident dream boss, looking back on her evolving relationship with Jane and looking ahead to potential struggles with the Stafford board.
This interview has been edited and condensed
The TV Junkies: When the series began Jacqueline was largely the mentor of the series, but we did learn more about her as the season went on, culminating in the finale when we learned about her assault. How did you approach playing Jacqueline going into Season 2?
Melora Hardin: Well, you know, I think that it’s interesting because she’s just a real person, right? And everybody has had things that have happened in their past, people that they’ve crossed, relationships that have fallen apart, or some trauma. I think what’s really great about Jacqueline is she’s a survivor. She doesn’t align and define who she is because of the harassment. I think she’s chosen for it not to be a defining thing about her life. I think she’s worked it through, she’s got access to probably some incredible therapy. She has an amazing, supportive, long-term relationship with her husband where they’ve worked through that, so I think you come to every episode which with that knowledge and that exploration that she’s done, but it also is part of the fabric of who she is rather than, you know, the star of who she is.
TTVJ: Jane’s been away from Scarlet for much of the season, so instead we’ve seen Jacqueline and her work relationship with Kat (Aisha Dee), which has a different dynamic. How do you compare the two relationships?
MH: I think that has been refreshing because you’ve gotten the see more of her relationships–not just with Kat, but also with Richard (Sam Page) and with Sutton (Meghann Fahy). I feel like, with Kat, where Jane is quite Type-A and quite controlling, Kat is more in the flow, in the zone of her work flow. She takes the leadership of Jacqueline and applies it more effortlessly than Jane does. Jane has more resistance to it, yet craves the mentorship.
TTVJ: Yes, Jane’s an interesting character. She’s very stubborn in that way, and I think some viewers kind of get frustrated, but it’s also very relatable.
MH: You get frustrated with her?
TTVJ: Sometimes, because of that stubbornness. Moments like the gun control episode. She’s very set in her ways.
MH: Yeah, I think it’s interesting because it’s very Type-A, like A plus B must equal C. For those of us who’ve lived a little bit you realize that A plus B doesn’t always equal C, sometimes it’s A plus C that equals D and to get B you’ve got to go B plus F. I think Jane is absolutely convinced that there is no other way than that right way, whatever that way is. So I think that’s going to be part of her growth as time goes on, right? Finding that life isn’t quite like that.
TTVJ: She has grown a bit this season, which is part of why Jacqueline hired her back to Scarlet. What do you think it was about Jane that made Jacqueline decide to take a chance on her again?
MH: I think she always had a soft spot for her. I think that Jane needs a mother figure and Jacqueline has two sons, but she doesn’t have daughters, and she could feel her talent. She’s a very talented writer and I think there’s something about Jane that reminds Jacqueline slightly of her younger self. But she kind of fell off her pedestal that Jane had to self-correct and she ended up being a work relationship with another editor that didn’t hold the same kind of integrity that Jacqueline holds. The feeling that your employees are something to be cared for and held closely, nurtured, and supported.
Jacqueline thought, “You needed that. You needed to see that to appreciate what you have in me.” I think that she wouldn’t have taken her back if she hadn’t had that experience she did have with that other editor, and if she hadn’t realized how difficult it was to have such a great job and such a great mentor, that she struggled so hard to get another job. It wasn’t so easy. Sometimes talent isn’t everything. It’s not all you need. She has the perseverance, but you also need a kind of gratitude, and I think Jane was lacking in that and still, even, she’s challenged by that. She has strong abilities, but she’s not terribly curious about the other ways that it might be done and the things that could be garnered from experience, from age, from someone that’s had more time on this Earth. That’s the thing that Jane really struggled with. And I think that Jacqueline wants to help her see into that in a way that could really change her life. I think Jacqueline’s inspired to be an inspiration. I think she loves to be a mentor that way. That’s probably the part of the job that she maybe even loves the most.
TTVJ: Jacqueline has had some of her own struggles this season with the new board member Cleo, and now we’re hearing that other board members are doubting her abilities. How do you think Jacqueline feels about the board starting to lose faith in her?
MH: She takes it as she takes everything, which is with grace and as an opportunity to learn and grow. I don’t think she feels defensive as much as she feels confident and strong in her own abilities and her own experience in her own talent and gifts. But I think she’s so aware. When something is going wrong, she knows it. It’s not like she’s in denial or in defensiveness and try to manipulate her way out of it. She faces it head-on. She comes at it head on and, I think, tries to communicate, tries to understand and tries to figure out a way to make it work. I mean, that’s what any great leader does and she is a great leader. That’s not to say she’s always going to do it right, but that’s always her intention. Her intention is to try to keep the conversation moving, to stand in her power, and when she feels strongly about something to speak to that, but also to be available to grow and change. To maybe understand something in a different way than she understood it before.
What are your thoughts on Jacqueline’s story this season? Sound off in the comments below.
The Bold Type season finale airs Tuesday, August 7 at 8 p.m. ET on Freeform and ABC Spark.
Associate Editor Kelly Townsend always had strong opinions on TV growing up, so it was only natural to evolve from couch musings to online journalism. She can't ever choose a favorite series, so please don't ask. Her writing has also appeared on IndieWire and Tribute.ca. You can find her on Twitter at @kellybtownsend.